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What are we thinking #1 – Preparation

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As a team, we’re constantly looking at ways by which we can improve what we do and how we do it. So we came up with a bit of an idea that we thought we’d share with the world.
Each week, we’re going to investigate one theme around what makes (or breaks!!) a digital project. We’ll share thoughts from the team, top tips, insights, reports and stories surrounding that theme and we’ll post it all up here (and share via Twitter – give us a follow here if you like).
This week, its all about preparation. Do you do enough? When should you prep, how should you prep and what are the risks if you don’t?
A lot of these things may come as common sense but you’ll be surprised how often it falls by the wayside and can make a project suffer incredibly.
We hope you enjoy – and do get in touch if you have any stories of your own you want to share with us!

 
Return of the agenda
Author: Jilly Cross, Managing Director

Meetings… a time consuming, costly but necessary (and enjoyable, most of the time) part of any project. You can get a lot achieved in a one-hour meeting… BUT, you can also end up wasting a great deal of time that can be applied elsewhere…
 
Many attempts have been made to reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of meetings – from stand up only, 2 min each ONLY scrum sessions, to project management apps that calculate the real-time cost of a meeting as you sit there, meeting… (I wouldn’t recommend using them – its pretty horrifying, especially if you’re in charge of the budget)
 
As we continue our discussions this week around preparation and how it can affect our productivity, we discovered the one thing that has been dropped from our meeting organisation – the humble agenda.
 
So we’ve started bringing them back… Only two days in and we’re already seeing the benefits of this quick-list of items for discussion – here’s what we’ve learned so far:
 
1. An agenda can cancel a wasteful meeting – it asks two questions to all attendees, “are you ready to discuss this?” and “are you the right person to discuss this?” – if the answer is no to any of these, the meeting should be avoided / rescheduled
2. An agenda gets people prepared – again, that question of “are you ready to discuss this?” ensures everyone comes to the meeting with the necessary info they need to get that point discussed and moved forward – avoiding that old ”I’ll have to get back to you on that” chestnut…
3. An agenda can avoid thumb twiddling – having an agenda can avoid certain attendees joining a whole meeting when they really only need to be there for that one 10 min point they’re involved in – happy person, happy meeting…
4. An agenda can shut down the soap-boxy procrastinator – by getting an agenda out in good time, and giving attendees the opportunity to add / amend the points on it, you can control a meeting’s discussion points – if they want to discuss something at length, they should have added it… (ouch)
5. An agenda should take no more than 5 mins to write – if you really have to think about additional items to add to it, perhaps you are in fact done and should just send it out
6. An agenda should NEVER have AOB on the end of it – why do we do this to ourselves? Not only are you prompting mister point No. 4 soap-boxy procrastinator but it can also becomes a dumping ground for things that, if important, should have had their own point in the agenda or, if not that important, should be dropped altogether
7. An agenda can help saying goodbye – we’ve all been there… particularly if you’re British, ending a conversation or meeting can be torture (or a never ending verbal run of alternatives to goodbye / thank you) – a simple “we’ve covered all points, thanks for your time” gets you out of this, pronto…
 
On that note – we’ve covered all our points – thanks for your time :)
 

 
Top 5 things you should prepare before a designer can even start to get the crayons out.
Author: Emma Wood, our fabulous Creative Lead.
 
1. Brand guidelines. Artwork. Logos. Fill my inbox with all the goodies I need to make this design sing for the brand.
2. Fonts. What works for print may not work online. Are the brand fonts web safe? If not, we’ll need to work together to choose ones that will be on-brand while being visible online.
3. A clear idea. This one seems like a given but a really explicit creative brief on what the client wants will help a project succeed. If guidance isn’t given at the beginning, you’re at risk of going over budget on design time when you’re stabbing in the dark trying to create what you *think* they want.
4. Lets get technical. Get inside the minds of the developers and work together to ensure that the build can reflect the design precisely. Are we limited to certain grids? Will the platform used affect the way I can design? How wild can we get with the interactivity and functionality?
5. Think responsively. Don’t forget mobile! When I’m designing for desktop I always keep my doodle book to hand to scribble down the way every interaction will act on mobile.